Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Salads, Movies, Languages

Green bean, squash, kale, zucchini and cantaloupe salad.This is another experiment with green beans. I have to say that I still like the simplest salad the most, but one can get tired of the same thing over and over. I mixed together some green beans, zucchini shaved with vegetable peeler, “massaged” kale, fresh cantaloupe, roasted almonds, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, cayenne pepper and some salt. Danya did not care for it, but I enjoyed it — even more, considering how healthy it is!

Aroshka also tried cantaloupe today — it seems that he quite liked it!

And since we normally watch movies while eating, might as well throw it in this post. We’ve finished the 3rd season of The Wire last night. It wasn’t bad, but somewhat depressing — no matter how many hydra’s heads you take off, there are always more popping up to replace them. We started watching 2nd season of the Mad Man today. I enjoy this show quite more, even though it seems like I miss half of the content. Not sure if this is the nature of the show, or if my English is not strong enough. Anyhow, it also makes me sad somewhat, but it’s witty, and I like that!

Oh, and on the subject of languages — good news for those of us who are actively bilingual. Pretty much, it strengthens the mind (not surprisingly) — an article in NY Times outlines the benefits more clearly.

And lastly, a few words about weather — it is hot and humid, and I really hate it! I wish NY summers were more like NY springs. I can only go outside with Arosha either early in the morning, or in the evening before his bedtime. Today we went out at 8 a.m., and in an hour it was so bright and hot, that our poor baby was hiding his head on my chest (I had to take him out of the stroller). We sleep with AC and today we’re actually running it all day. I think it gives Arosha a runny nose, but none of us can tolerate the temperature otherwise.
In: Food & Dining, Life In General   Tags: , , , ,
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Weekends

AlenaThe truth is, I really like pictures that Danya is taking while we’re out, so I’ve decided to write a few words about our weekend just so I can post them. )

The summer is here. Some days are horribly hot an humid, but some, like today, are really nice — the temperature is in San-Fransisco-like 70s, the fresh breeze makes you realize how young you are, and NY lets you appreciate its beauty without thoughts of being caged in concrete nightmare.

Arosha & AlenaWe try to spend our weekends as a family — together, and preferably doing something fun. Today we went for a hike on Williamsburg Bridge (neither Daniel, nor I have done it before). I enjoyed it. We actually were supposed to go to Arsen’s house to celebrate aunt Lilya’s birthday, but he had some health issues, so they had to cancel. I was looking forward to seeing them, but hopefully there will be another chance this summer.

Arosha & AlenaAnd yesterday we went for a hike in Marine Park. The large portion of the main trail is closed, but we managed to still find a nice one and enjoyed that I-can’t-believe-we’re-in-Brooklyn feeling of being close to nature. Before going there we send a parcel to my sister — she is expecting a baby boy in mid-July (YAY!), and we send her some of the clothes that Aroshka has outgrown along with some new stuff that Danya’s mom bought for the upcoming arrival. I am very happy and excited for my sister and her husband (I know that he REALLY wanted a son). Fingers crossed for a smooth delivery and a healthy baby!

Arosha climbing over Alena.Last weekend was also full of fun activities. On Saturday Alex invited us to his home in Jersey City for a barbeque. We didn’t get very lucky with the weather — it was hot — but I still glad that we made the trip. Alex was more comfortable in the kitchen that I’ve even seen him before — he made a tomatos and cucumbers salad, then he grilled asparagus, zucchini and peppers along with burgers and beef steaks. No help from any of us. To my excuse, I had my hands full with Arosha — there was pretty much no shade in Alex’s backyard, and he did not have AC installed in his apartment yet. So dealing with hot and sweaty baby took a lot of energy!

Arosha eating.And on Sunday we went to a small park in Staten Island. Daniel’s dad suggested that we can stop there — he knows SI pretty well since he used to work there — and I am glad that we did. The park was small, but very cozy and not too crowded. I put an enormous amount of sunblock on Aroshka (probably overdid it) not excluding his big blond head, and he looked pretty funny because of it.

Hiking over Williamsburg Bridge.I also wanted to say that I am very grateful for all the help that Daniel’s mom provides us with. Unless they have some arrangements (like going to a birthday party or to the theater), she stays home with Aroshka on Saturday night, so Danya and I can go out and have either a romantic dinner by ourselves or spend some good time with our friends. It’s just for a few hours (Aroshka goes to sleep at 8, and we try to be home no later than 11), but this really means a lot for my sanity.

Queens. Flushing Meadows Park.She also tries to cook a family dinner every Sunday — she is a great cook, and it’s always delicious. I don’t know how she does it — working full time, helping me every night to entertain and bathe Aroshka after she is done working, cooking family dinners… I am very lucky to have such a wonderful mother-in-law! I wish I was able to call her mom — it’s hard for me to say it for some reason, although in my mind I have no issues doing it.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Arosha — 10 Months

Arosha rolling in the bed, playing peek-a-boo with his mommy.Arosha has turned 10 months today! Our big boy weighted 21lb 11oz and measured 31¼ inches at the doctor. He also had his blood taken to test for hemoglobin and lead — we’ll know the results in a few days. We dress Arosha in both 12 and 18 months clothes — the latter ones are still a bit too large, but some of the 12 months stuff is getting too snug.

On the bench in the park. Even though he can sit just fine by himself, he also has a big tendency to fall off things.The biggest thing that happened this months is that he learned a word — KRYA! He says it all the time now. I can’t get mama or papa out of him — only Krya, Ka, occasional Ko, Ga and Ba. But Krya definitely rules. It’s funny how kids will surprise you with little things — there is no way I would have guessed that he’ll start his verbal communication with the sound that the duck makes.

Five out of our six teeth are showing.He also started to recognize some other words. For example, he has a book about butterflies, a book about lambs, and a book about a bear (“Мишка Косолапый”). So every night Danya’s mom is asking him to show her each book, and more often that not he does it! He also definitely knows who papa is and who Shublik is (when I ask him where is papa or where is Shublik, he almost always looks at the correct person/cat). I am not sure if he knows mama, but oh well, he will at some point!

"I require this remote control. It must be checked for tastiness."He also stood unassisted — whole one time! Well, it was multiple times really, but on one occasion only (during our visit to Flushing Meadows park). I read somewhere that smaller, lighter babies have easier time balancing themselves — maybe there is some truth to it. He still LOVES to stand holding onto furniture though, as well as to cruise around using furniture for support. He also figured out how to open the doors of our bookshelves, and spends a lot of time doing it, as well as trying to chew on books (I don’t allow him to chew on books obviously, but sometimes he manages to start before I notice).

Sitting on papa's shoulders.He is still not very good at eating solids. There is definitely an improvement compared to the previous month, but breast milk is still his favorite. Can’t blame him I guess. As far as my breastfeeding plans go, I hope to be able to continue until Aroshka is at least 1 year old, and then have at least a morning and an evening feedings for hopefully another half year. We’ll see how it goes, but for now I am happy that my body is able to produce enough. I try to introduce some water as well, but he is not very interested in it.The thing is that he is not used to drinking from anything other than his mommy, so getting him to understand the concept of drinking from a sippy cup or a glass is a challenge of its own (although it seems that yesterday he figured out how to use a sippy cup with a straw).

Sometimes we cry. Especially when we visit the doctor for our check-ups.He also cut another 2 teeth this month — both upper lateral incisors. They are not fully out yet, but the tips could be seen really well. To Aroshka’s credit — he does not bite me while drinking milk (knock on wood). He does sometimes bite my clothes or any part of the body he can get to when he is hungry, but not the breast. I hope it will continue this way.

Backpack kid carrier. First ride.Being around Arosha is getting more and more fun! One of my favorite activities is playing a variety of peek-a-boo (which involves my hiding on the floor and his rolling around laughing in the crib) with him — both of us have so much fun! I love holding him, hugging him, kissing him, smelling his big blonde head. I love it when he smiles, and even more when he laughs. I love that when he needs comfort I am able to provide it.

Arosha in mama's lap.They say babies grow too fast — they do indeed. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be a little baby with dimples on his arms and chubby legs forever, and that there will be a time when he would not want to always be around us, that he will have his opinion, his hopes, his friends… Sometimes it seems that he will always be our little boy. But I know that he’ll become a man one day! So I am trying to enjoy this brief time of his babyhood as much as I can.

Happy Ten Months Birthday, Aroshka! We love you.
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Williamsburg Bridge Photowalk

Here is a couple of photographs from our Williamsburg Bridge photowalk from this past weekend. All of these were taken with Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens.

Subway
FDR Drive
Williamsburg Bridge
Fence
Empire State
Factory
Bikepath
Bikepath
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Manual 50mm Lens Observations

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens mounted on Nikon D700.I’ve been thinking about putting more of my thoughts together on my new Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S manual focus lens for a couple of weeks already, but I wanted to provide a good number of sample shots along with it. I believe I have enough material now. A collection of photographs taken with this lens can be viewed in the posts tagged with 50mm f/1.2 tag.

The Feel


Looking through the lens at f/1.2.The first big surprise with this lens to me was its weight. My old Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens used to weight 156 grams. This one weights 360. When you take it out of the box you realize right away that you are holding something special.

The lens which was in production since 1981 is still made of all metal — black enamel over black anodized aluminum and stainless steel. All the markings on the lens are engraved and filled with paint. When you look through the lens at wide open you see a lot of glass and very thin lens walls. It’s an illusion caused by optics. It’s not really as thin as it appears.

Focusing ring is rubber covered metal. Each lens has a serial number engraved on the front of the focusing element. Numbers after 400,000 denote lenses produced after 2006. They are still made in Japan.

Manual Focus


Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens mounted on Nikon D700.This is the fastest lens that Nikon currently makes and the only available version is a manual focus one. There is no auto-focus. This makes it a specialty lens. Majority of people most probably are better of going with the latest 50mm f/1.4G lens or a very good and cheap 50mm f/1.8G or f/1.8D lenses.

I wasn’t sure how manual focus would work out for me as I never had a lens specifically made for focusing manually. I had very little luck focusing my old 50mm f/1.8D lens by hand. This lens’ focusing ring however can’t compare to any of the lenses made for AF. Even my $2,000 Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G lens’ focusing ring feels extremely cheap compared to this retro manual marvel.

The focusing ring movement is very smooth. The ring provides a very pleasant tactile feedback-resistance. When you rotate the ring fully you get a nice distinct ding sound and a dead stop of the ring — no play whatsoever. All this gives you an ability to be very precise and at f/1.2 it means everything.

Camera indicates that the lens is in focus with a green dot.However the best part for somebody as inexperienced with manual focusing as I am is the fact that D700 light meters and focus confirms through this lens just fine. What that means is that when I get the lens in focus it will show me a green dot on the LCD screen. If it’s not in focus it will show an arrow pointing left or right, telling me which direction to rotate the focusing ring in. And from experience it seems to be pretty accurate.

Lens is not in focus and the focusing ring should be turned left as indicated by left pointing arrow.Having said all that it is close to impossible to use on fast moving targets like kids and animals. Nor Aroshka nor Shublik are photographable with this lens in most situations. Although with a little bit of practice now I do manage to catch Arosha’s eye in focus in time on some occasions. Also one must keep in mind that at minimal focusing distance of 50cm at f/1.2 the depth of field is under 7mm. So even if you do get focus confirmation, but you or your subject moves you will lose focus.

Overall it came out to be much less “scary” than I thought it would be and the lens is very much usable and fairly easy at that. And it will only get better with practice.

Performance, Rendering & Bokeh


The quality of bokeh and general image rendering is a very subjective topic and you should make that determination yourself by looking at the sample photographs. As for myself — I am pleased with the results.

Taken at f/1.2.Alena was doubting my decision to buy a manual lens, but after looking at the results I can’t tell you how many times she has said that the photographs taken with it are top notch.

Taken at f/2.As for sharpness of the lens — I did not do any sciencific tests. Just by reaching f/2 lens seems to be alreading performing at its peak. Having said that I will say that I am very happy with the results starting right from f/1.2. A lot, if not majority, of my shots were taken wide open.

Taken at f/1.2.The only negative is the amount of purple fringing that the lens is producing wide open. It’s easy to fix in post-production, but some basic proficiency with Photoshop is required. Left uncorrected fringing will surely ruin the shot.

Conclusion


Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens. Too bad I forgot to take off the back cap before taking the photo.I’m very happy with my purchase. I’ve already taken several great photographs with it that I added to my portfolio. The fact that you have to manually focus the lens makes you think more about the composition which in turn makes you better with the craft of photography, instead of just pointing and shooting.

For most people one of the AF versions of 50mm will work better, but the artistic possibilities that this lens opens the door to are vast.

Article Illustrations


Most of the shots for this article were taken with my old (t)rusty Nikon D70. The LCD shots were taken directly through the viewfinder of D700, hence the “awesomeness” of the quality.
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